Lt. Darlene Simmons was a successful Navy lawyer with an impeccable reputation and a promising future. That is, until she accused her boss of sexual harassment.
Since that moment two years ago, Simmons has been forced to undergo a psychiatric examination (in which she was found to be fit), given poor marks on her evaluations and scheduled to be discharged in August.She says her superiors have greeted her pleas for help with retaliation. "I am regarded as a troublemaker with no future in the Navy," she told the House Armed Services Committee in March.
Now the Navy is trying to make amends. Navy Secretary John H. Dalton has apologized to Simmons, cleared her record and offered to extend her active duty Navy service by two years. "No one in our Navy or Marine Corps should be treated as you were," Dalton wrote Simmons in a May 12 letter.
Dalton has also censured Simmons' former boss, Lt. Cmdr. Arthur Catullo, for sending her a note offering to help advance her career in exchange for sexual favors. Catullo retired last year.
In addition, Adm. Jeremy M. Boorda, the chief of naval operations, reprimanded two other officers, Capt. Willie J. Mead and Capt. Clyde J. Ihrig, for failing to act properly on Simmons' complaints.
Mead is retired now. Ihrig now works for the Navy Department staff at the Pentagon.
Catullo and Mead could not be reached for comment Tuesday. When reached at his home Tuesday night, Ihrig said he had been "counseled by his chain of command," but he declined to comment further on the matter.
In a telephone interview Tuesday from Mayport, Fla., where she is a Navy prosecutor, Simmons said, "I'm absolutely thrilled about the outcome of this. This definitely hasn't been an easy process, but I feel I have a new life."
The lieutenant's case is one of scores of sexual harassment complaints in the military, but senior Navy officials point to their handling of the matter, belated as it was, as a sign of the Navy's new commitment to eliminate sexual harassment in the wake of the Tailhook scandal.